The first view of Mount Fuji is like a blow to your stomach, utterly breathtaking. Towering Godzilla-like over everything it is perfect, like a children's drawing. Did someone just say all cliches are true? I arrived yesterday to the Solar Cafe and Emiko, the inn keeper made a wonderful dinner for me and Tom, an Irish architect who's been living here for a month, working on the farm. I have come here to do a story about Aokigahara or Jukai, the 'Sea of Trees' at the foot of the mountain. All dressed up in autumn colors it is hard to believe that this peaceful forest is the second most favored suicide spot after the Golden Gate Bridge. In recent years the annual body count is 70-100 and some say that it was all spurred on by a work of fiction; a novel by the late Seichō Matsumoto in which the lovers who can't have each other go to commit suicide in the forest.
This morning I took a bus to Lake Shojiko to meet Yamada Yoshifumi who was born here 83 years ago.
He owns and runs a hotel and he told me that mainly young people used to come here to end their lives, but after the economic burst in the 90's they were outnumbered by failed business owners and salary men who can't face the shame of loosing their jobs. He, like many other locals, was a volunteer firefighter and has collected several bodies from the forest. On my way back from Lake Shojiko I had my debut hitchhike in Japan, yep, I stuck my finger out and in less than 2 minutes I was picked up by a guy on his way to Kawaguchiko. He had about 5 words of English, but on the 15 minute ride we became best pals.
After feeding the sheep, Tom and I took a walk in the forest. At the entrance to the path we were met by a sign set up by local authorities pleading people to think twice:
The forest is dense and the undergrowth is mossy. It's hard to orientate yourself, because you are constantly walking in circles to avoid the gaping holes formed by the volcanic lava flow. Luckily we didn't stumble on any morbid sights; the only trace of humans was a half-trodden mix tape, which of course got us thinking. We walked until it got too dark to go any further and in the dusk I took this picture of Mount Fuji.
Once I got over the initial shock I find I can't stop taking pictures of the monster, maybe as some kind of self-defense against its stunning beauty.
- Posted by Pejk Malinovski